From the "Baby-Benz" to the C-Class.
A guided tour of the history of one of the best-selling
model series from Mercedes-Benz.
Squealing tyres, temperatures at the threshold of pain, men running with sweat – and contagious jubilations: this is what the jackpot looked like for Mercedes-Benz engineers, technicians and test drivers in August of 1983. The "Red" team from the test department had just circled the globe: on the world's fastest circular test track, the Pista di Nardò.
It took 201 hours, 39 minutes and 43 seconds to cover a distance of 50,000 km and set three world records and nine class records. And a vehicle that could stay the course: as the 190 E 2.3-16, the "Baby Benz" set out to revolutionize the history of the automobile.
Mobile for a new era.
In many regards the year 1982 marked the beginning of a totally new era: it was the year the first artificial heart was transplanted and the first test-tube baby was born. Michael Jackson's legendary "Thriller" album took the world's charts by storm. The movie listings were dominated by science fiction films like "Blade Runner" and "E.T. – The Extraterrestrial", which today have cult status. US news magazine "Time" picked the computer as the "machine of the year". In every respect the dawn of the future seemed to have arrived. Mercedes-Benz recognized the signs of the times: the automobile manufacturer launched a model that was to transfer brand values such as safety and comfort from higher classes of vehicles to a compact segment without compromises.
One year later the 190 / 190 E model broke records and hearts in Nardò.
Distinctive and agile.
Its success was surely in part due to its distinctive appearance: a clear wedge shape, fine light-catching edges, precise contours, a striking tall rear. The design penned by Mercedes-Benz chief designer Bruno Sacco was initially deemed a formal-aesthetic provocation. But it prevailed: not only the eventual C-Class, but also other luxury-class vehicles would be inspired by the "Baby-Benz". What is more, the mid-size saloon delighted with an innovative suspension: at its heart was the multi-link rear axle. This design featured five independent links to locate each rear wheel, which ensured optimal wheel control and largely compensated lateral and longitudinal forces in all driving situations. This resulted in highly balanced handling characteristics.
In addition, there were features such as the newly developed four-valve engine technology, innovative diesel engines and the streamlined body.
B leads to C.
The year 1993 marked another threshold to a new age: Bill Clinton started his first term in office and in the Old World the single European market became reality. The Cold War was history and all over the world people were thinking bigger and bigger. Mercedes-Benz launched the model series 202: this model series, now officially christened the C-Class, offered more space and comfort than the predecessor with similar exterior dimensions. The model series 202 played a decisive role in the advancement of car diesel engines at Mercedes-Benz: The C-Class was the first passenger car to be equipped with four-valve diesel engines. And it was the basis for subsequent innovations such as four-valve turbodiesel engines with intercooler as well as the future diesel engines with direct injection.
The young model series also made an impact in the field of petrol engines: for the first time in more than 50 years Mercedes-Benz returned to using a Roots supercharger to boost the power output of the engine in the C 230.
Ready for take-off into
a new millennium.
The start of a new millennium. It was the "International Year of Physics" and the "International Year for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence". The end of the world anticipated by the apocalyptic prophets failed to materialize. Instead, an automotive hope became reality: the third generation of the compact class arrived. The model series 203 was marked by a sporty design. A modern sports coupé (CL 203) debuted in autumn and the new estate model (S 203) was launched the following year. It combined safety, comfort and sporty agility with technical innovations. The C-Class became the epitome of a lifestyle vehicle with high utility. The model series 203 stood out with standard features that enhanced driving comfort and safety – for example, the SEQUENTRONIC six-speed automated transmission.
The year was 2007. For the first time American researchers succeeded in cloning rhesus monkeys, Steve Jobs presented the first iPhone. Seven new wonders of the world were proclaimed in Portugal. In short, the world was ripe for a new vehicle. The model series 204 captivated with a striking design – and with even more technical innovations such as
the AGILITY Control package, the ADAPTIVE Brake Light and the occupant protection system. This model made the breakthrough to become the best-selling model series – and it did so with two different front-end designs: Elegance and Avantgarde. More than 2.4 million vehicles were sold up to the introduction of the next model.
The best knows no alternative.
2013 was the year of the comets. The names of these wanderers between the stars were Panstarrs, Ison and Lovejoy. A new star also began to shine on the automotive firmament: the model series 205 was launched. On the 30th anniversary of the record-breaking run this new C-Class once more answers the call of the times: in an increasingly complex age it effortlessly manages to reconcile seeming contradictions. Progressive shapes fuse with emotional elements to create a vehicle that is just as sporty as it is luxurious in its appearance. Thanks to an intelligent lightweight design concept it saves up to 100 kilograms in weight, scores points with outstanding aerodynamics, and with new economical engines sets new efficiency benchmarks in its class.
Furthermore, active safety is enhanced among other things with standard-fit LED brake lamps. The "Baby-Benz" has grown up – but it is far from growing old.